Johnson, James William

Submitted by JJ Johnson
Biographical Sketch of James William Johnson (JOH 1).
... By James William Johnson,
... Copyright © 2002-2003. All Rights Reserved.

[Note: James William Johnson, the subject of this biographical sketch, was born Patrick Mason Alford but changed his name later in life. Both names refer to the same person as do the nicknames "Mace" and "Jim". His sister Belle, lovingly called him "Patty". Beyond its use on the Pemiscot County, Missouri Web Site, this article may not be reproduced in any form without the written and expressed permission of its author.]

The son of Robert F. Alford and Alsa Evans, Patrick Mason Alford was born on 20 Jul 1860 in Macoupin Co., IL (Palmyra Township) near Carlinville and died on 24 May 1934 in Sevier Co., AR (De Queen) at the age of seventy-three. He was buried at the West Line Cemetery in the County of his death.

Robert and Alsa Alford had eleven children. The first three, William Thomas, "Tom," Sarah Elizabeth, "Sissy," and George Mashack, "Zack" were born in eastern Tennessee. The remaining eight, including Patrick Mason, "Mace," were born in Macoupin Co., IL near Carlinville.

Before his second birthday, Mace's sister, Rachel Rebecca, "Becky," was born and in 1863 his paternal grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Tipton, died in Macoupin Co., IL at the age of sixty-seven. When he was four, his sister, Susan Isabelle, "Belle," was born and, at the age of five, another sister, Alsa Eveline, "Evie," was born. While eight years old, his brother, Robert Henry, "Bob," was born.

Although he was born too late to be counted in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census, he was enumerated with his family in the 1870 Census in Macoupin Co., IL at the age of nine.

When he was ten years old, his brother, Charles Parks, "Charlie," was born and when he was twelve, his sister, Minnie Louella, was born. That same year, 1873, his maternal grandmother, Rebecca Parks, died in Tennessee at the age of seventy-three.

Two years later, in 1875, his maternal grandfather and probably his namesake, Patrick Henry Evans, died in Tennessee at the age of seventy-three. In the same year, a sister and the last child born to Robert and Alsa, Ida May, was born. Sometime during the next two years, the family migrated to Tarrant Co., TX near Arlington.

In August of 1877, Mace was seventeen years old and his younger brother, Charlie, died. The traditionally accepted cause of his death was snake bite.

On 02 Aug 1879, Mace became involved in a shootout in which George H. White and William "Bill" Lytle were killed. On 26 Sep 1879, the Grand Jury of Tarrant Co., TX sent down an Indictment against Mace and his brother, Zack, for murder. Mace, who was only nineteen, and Tom went into hiding. Later that year, Zack was convicted of murder and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary.

In 1880, part of the family, including Mace's mother, Alsa, returned to their roots in Roane Co., TN. The children who accompanied her were probably Evie, Bob, Minnie and Ida. Later in that same year, Zack's conviction for murder was overturned in the Texas Court of Appeals.

In 1881, Mace's sister, Minnie Louella died in Roane Co., TN at the age of eight; Ida May, another sister, died in 1883 at the age of seven. It is believed that they died of influenza.

Sometime during the next few years, Mace began to use the name James William Johnson and William Thomas Alford used Richard Joseph Johnson. They bought land and settled in Sevier Co., AR in the West Line community.

On 10 Sep 1885, Mace, who was by then called Jim, married Sarah Jane Anderson in Pemiscot County, Missouri. Mace was twenty-five and Sarah Jane was twenty-four. The marriage, officiated by a justice of the peace, took place in the home of her brother somewhere in Pemiscot County.

Born on 13 Mar 1861 in Tennessee, Janie, lived with her brother, R.N. Anderson, in Benton County, Tennessee in 1880 at the age of nineteen. She later lived with him in Pemiscot County, Missouri. In 1890, Janey received a letter from an individual identified as her sister, Susie. It came from Caruth, Missouri, a community south of Kennett, Missouri in the bootheel.

In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, a sister, Nancy E. Anderson, and another brother, George I. Anderson, resided with R.N. Anderson and his family. The names of Janey's parents are unknown.

At that time, R.N. Anderson, Janey's brother, was married to Mary E. and had two children, James A. Anderson and Sarah E. Anderson.

On 24 Dec 1887, Mace's father, Robert F. Alford, was brutally murdered in Burleson Co., TX near Caldwell. He was buried somewhere in Texas. Although there is no proof supporting the position, one traditional story says that Mace and his brothers, Tom and Zack, found and murdered Robert's killers.

On 18 Jun 1892, Charles Parks Johnson, their first child, was born to Jim and Janie in West Line, Arkansas. On 13 May 1895, their second child, Murray California was born in the same location. In January of 1897, their third child, Ida Pearl, was born but died soon after. She was buried at the West Line Cemetery. There is some evidence to suggest that Janie suffered from depression.

On 25 Jun 1897, the following article appeared in the De Queen Bee, a local weekly newspaper:

"Jim Johnson and R.J. Johnson of Ultima Thule, the former a leading stockman and the latter a prosperous farmer, were in the city on business last Saturday."

Ultima Thule was a small community near the West Line area. At that time, the name "West Line" was not applied to their community and Ultima Thule was the closest one so they were considered to be residents around Ultima Thule. This community was on the road going into Oklahoma and is a latin phrase meaning "the end of the world." This frontier land was a perfect place to begin a new life.

On 30 Jun 1897, Janie applied for and was granted a specific Brand for the Johnson stock. Six months later, on 27 Jan 1898, Janie purchased lands in the West Line area from J.S. Lake. It may be that the purchase of lands in her name and the application for livestock brands in her name was done to keep her husband, who was wanted in Texas for the murder of George H. White, under a low profile. At the very least, if something happened and Jim Johnson was arrested, Janie could carry on with family business because these elements were assigned to her name.

On 10 Nov 1898, Janie gave birth to her fourth child, Elsie Jane. However, she could not survive complications surrounding the birth and was buried at the West Line Cemetery near her daughter, Ida Pearl.

Janie died after thirty-seven years, two hundred forty-two days. She and Jim were married for thirteen years, sixteen days. At her death, Charles Parks was six years old; Murray California was three years old and Jim was thirty-eight years old.

Elsie Jane, an infant, was taken to Tarrant Co., TX near Arlington where she was nursed by Jim's younger sister, Rachel Rebecca Alford-McFadin. She may have remained in Texas for as long as three years.

The following epitaph was placed on Janie's burial marker:

Sarah J. Wife of James W. Johnson
Born Mar 13, 1861
Died Nov 10, 1898

A loving wife, A mother dear
A faithfull friend Lies burried here.


The only occupation practiced by Janie was that of a domestic housewife, however, she was proficient in quilting, knitting and wrote poetry.

Janie's maiden name was Anderson although some records indicate that her name was Duncan and Donovan. It is also doubtful that she had been married prior to her betrothal to Johnson. In later years, her son, Murray California Johnson, would travel to Caruthersville, Missouri in Pemiscot County to "visit family." It is believed that it was the family of his mother, Sarah Jane Anderson, he visited.

Based on family history, in the spring of 1899, Jim, a widower, approach the homestead of a neighbor in the West Line community whose name was Henry Dempsey Clark. Jim told Clark that he wanted to marry his twenty-four year old daughter, Dempsey Tennessee. Clark reminded Jim that there was a significant age difference between Jim and Dempsey; Jim was thirty-eight years old. "However," Clark explained, "if you will wait one year and Dempsey is willing, I will allow the marriage."

Jim told Clark that he needed a wife and mother for his children "now, not a year from now."

At that, Dempsey, who had been listening from inside the cabin, stepped out to tell her father that she would marry Jim immediately. On 01 Mar 1899, Dempsey Tennessee Clark and James William Johnson were married in a religious ceremony in Sevier Co., AR (De Queen). Officiating the wedding was a mysterious minister whose name was Robert Alford.

The daughter of Priscillar and Henry Dempsey Clark, Dempsey Tennessee Clark was born on 10 Sep 1874 in Louisiana and died on 24 Jun 1914 in Sevier Co., AR (West Line) at the age of thirty-nine. She was killed in a buggy accident that broke her neck and was buried in the West Line Cemetery in the County of her death.

Dempsey's parents were from Mississippi and she had three older siblings: Sarah, Lucretia and Jesse. Sarah Clark was born in 1853 in Mississippi and married W.F. Ward in 1880; Lucretia Clark was born in 1858 in Mississippi and married Louis Jones; W. Jesse Clark was born on 23 Sep 1871 in Mississippi and died on 01 Apr 1894 in Sevier Co., AR (West Line) at the age of twenty-two. He was buried at the West Line Cemetery in the County of his death.

On 05 Apr 1900, Jim and Dempsey had their first child of six, Lois Dempsey Johnson. In that same year, Jim, Dempsey, Charlie and Murray were enumerated in the 1900 U.S. Federal Population Census for Sevier Co., AR (Buckhorn Township).

In the latter part of that year, a commercial photograph was made of the children, including: Charlie, Murray, Jane and Lois. The next year another family photograph, not including Jim, was made. In the 1901 commercial photograph was Charlie, Murray, Jane, Lois and Dempsey Tennessee. Except on rare occasions, Jim seldom allowed himself to be photographed.

Jim paid real estate taxes in 1901 and 1902 in Sevier County, AR.

On 15 Jul 1902, a son, Timothy Toy Johnson, was born to Jim and Dempsey. In the same year, the family moved to a larger home in Chapel Hill, near De Queen, Arkansas.

On 19 May 1903, Jim bought land from the U.S. Government and on 11 Oct 1904, another son, Robert Henry Johnson, was born to Jim and Dempsey. On 13 Mar 1905, Jim bought more land from the Government and on 11 Sep 1906, a daughter, Allie Mae Johnson, was born.

In 1907, a family portrait in front of the old homestead was made. It included Jim, Dempsey, Charlie, Murray, Jane, Lois, Toy, Allie Mae and Robert Henry. This was only one of the three known photographs taken of Jim.

On 16 Oct 1909, Geraldine Verna Johnson was born and on 16 Aug 1912, Pompie Franklin Johnson was born to Jim and Dempsey.

On January 22, 1913, the Assistant County Attorney of Tarrant County, Texas appeared before the 7th District Court of that County and moved that the charges against Mace Alford, aka James William Johnson, be dismissed because there was insufficient evidence available to support a conviction. Jim had lived for thirty-four years with George H. White's 1879 murder charge hanging over his head and he had kept his past a secret from the rest of the family - a secret than remained hidden from his descendants until its discovery in the year 2001, over one hundred twenty years later.

In the summer of 1914, Dempsey was taking a packed lunch to Jim who was working in one of his fields. During the trip, her buggy hit a tree stump and threw her out of the vehicle. The fall broke her neck and she died three days later on 24 Jun 1914 in De Queen, Arkansas at the age of thirty-nine. Jim and Dempsey were married for fifteen years, eleven days and had six children. She was buried at the West Line Cemetery in Sevier Co., AR (West Line). Inscribed on her burial marker was the following:

Dempsey T. wife of James W. Johnson
Born Sept. 10, 1874
Died June 24, 1914
Ab 39 yrs 9 mos 4 das

A Precious one From us has gone
A voice we loved Is stilled
A place is vacant In our home
Which can never Be filled
God, in his wisdom Has recalled
The Boon his love has given
And though the body Slumbers here
The soul is safe In heaven


When Jim was almost fifty-four years old, his first grandchild was born. James Howard Johnson was born on 11 Jul 1914 in Jim's home at Chapel Hill. Howard was the son of Charles Parker Johnson and Myrtle Lee Cassil.

In 1916, Jim's second grandchild, Charles Parker Johnson, Junior was born.

On 16 Feb 1917, Jim applied for and received a "JW" stock brand in Sevier County, Arkansas.

With Dempsey gone, Jim employed a Sevier County woman, Rosa Ellen Ayers, to help with his children. Rosa was married to Charlie Ferguson and they had two daughters, Willie Lee and Irene Francis. But because Rosa was spending so much time at the Johnson household, on 24 Jul 1918, Jim was indicted by the County for illegal cohabitation, a charge that was eventually dismissed because no witnesses would come forward to testify.

On 24 Nov 1918, Jim's mother, Alsa Evans-Alford died in Roane Co., TN (Harriman) at the age of eighty-six. She was buried at the Bowman-Bowers Cemetery in the County of her death.

In 1920, Jim and his children were enumerated in the U.S. Federal Census for Sevier County, Arkansas.

In that same year, Jim's son, Charles Parker Johnson was injured in a train accident in which his chest was crushed. Two years later, on 10 Apr 1922, Charles died of pneumonia in Wichita, Kansas at the age of twenty-nine. Jim brought his son's body back to Sevier County and buried him at the West Line Cemetery near his mother and sister.

At the age of sixty-three, Jim married his long time housekeeper and friend, Rosa Ellen Ayers in a civil ceremony in McCurtain Co., OK (Idabel) on 06 Sep 1923.

The daughter of Martha Jane Pollard and William Baker Ayers, Rosa was born on 06 Jul 1893 in Arkansas and died on 23 Jun 1983 in Cottle Co., TX (Paducka) at the age of eighty-nine. She was buried at the East Mound Cemetery in Motely Co., TX (Matador).

In 1924, Jim and Rosa's only child, James Harris Johnson, was born in De Queen, Arkansas.

On 08 May 1926, Jim's third grandchild, Kathryn Louise Childress, was born; on 07 Jul 1926, his fourth grandchild, Bill Wayne Crowder, was born. Late in 1926, his fifth grandchild, Jewline Johnson, was born but died soon after. She was interred at the Chapel Hill Cemetery in Sevier County.

On 31 Jul 1927, his sister, Rachel Rebecca Alford-McFadin died in Tarrant Co., TX (Arlington) at the age of sixty-five. She was buried at the Watson Cemetery in the County of her death.

On 20 Oct 1927, Jim's sixth grandchild, Betty Jo Johnson, was born in Sevier County, Arkansas.

In 1928, Jim's older sister, Sarah Elizabeth Alford-Murray died in Tarrant Co., TX (Arlington) at the age of seventy-one. She was buried at the Watson Cemetery in the County of her death.

The following grandchildren were born to Jim over the next four years:

Kenneth Murray Johnson, 30 Apr 1928
Donald Ewing Childress, 05 May 1928
Beatrice Allene Johnson, 06 Feb 1930
Charles Franklin Johnson, 17 Aug 1931
Jo Ann Johnson, 16 May 1933 and
John Allen Johnson, 24 Jun 1933.

On 24 May 1934, Jim died of lobar pneumonia in De Queen, Arkansas after a six day illness at the age of seventy-three. He was buried at the West Line Cemetery in the County of his death. The following was inscribed on his burial marker:

July 20, 1860
May 24, 1934
At Rest

Rosa, his wife of ten years, was forty years old.

In 1935, Rosa Ellen Ayers, took her son, James Harris, and moved to Motley Co., TX (Matador). Some time after that, she married Walter E. Ellithorp, who died in 1956.

She saw the birth of several grandchildren by her son, Harris. The list includes:

James Richard Johnson, 22 Jul 1944,
Wadena Mae Johnson-Divine, 22 Jan 1945,
LaCinda Janelle Johnson, 22 Feb 1951,
Daniel Patton Johnson, 02 Jul 1954,
Connie Kathleen Johnson, 25 Apr 1956 and
Jamie Rose Johnson, 18 Jun 1969.

On 23 Jun 1983, Rosa died of cardiac arrest in Paducka, Texas at the age of eighty-nine and was buried in the East Mound Cemetery in Motley Co., TX (Matador). There is no evidence that either of her daughters, Willie Lee Ferguson and Irene Francis Ferguson, ever had offspring.

Patrick Mason Alford, aka James William Johnson, had four brothers, six sisters, three wives, six sons, five daughters, thirty-four known grand children, seventy-four known great grand children, seventy-nine known great great grand children and eight known great great great grandchildren. The descendants of James William Johnson number over two hundred.

By those who knew him, Jim has been described as a stern, respected and, in some cases, a feared man. That he was capable of violence seems clear. However, his authoritative character was often softened to a loving and protective one. He enjoyed a sense of humor and community pride.

James William Johnson was, above all, a family man and a pioneer. Saddled with a secret life, faced with inescapable tragedies and confronted with demanding responsibilities, Jim rose above his past and shouldered, with determination, those things required of him.

He was a man of pride and the father of several generations of proud children.


Templates in Time